Every year millions of individuals undergo surgery for medically necessary conditions and are at risk for developing postoperative neurocognitive disorders. After a routine operation, such as orthopedic surgery, many patients experience acute cognitive deficits (delirium) that in some cases may evolve into long-term cognitive impairments also known as postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) and even permanent dementia. Classic features of these complications include changes in mental status, inattention, disorganized thinking, and altered consciousness, which have been overall associated with long-term morbidity and mortality, reduced quality of life and significant costs to the health care system. These conditions are especially frequent amongst older patients and are clearly associated with increased mortality, diminished quality of life, and soaring healthcare costs. The mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of these complications are not fully understood and currently without effective therapies.
Our lab studies the mechanisms underlying postoperative neurocognitive disorders with a strong focus on neuroinflammation, innate immunity, and behavior. Using an integrated interdisciplinary and translational approach, we are addressing the biological complexity of this disease using clinically relevant models combined with molecular, genetic, physiological and imaging techniques. Our aims are to define the underlying mechanisms leading to memory deficits after surgery and to develop safe strategies to resolve neuroinflammation in the perioperative setting.